“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’”
- Nehemiah 2:17
The belief in some quarters is that the Bola Tinubu presidency is being confronted by two enemies: the cabals and the masses. Well, while Nigeria’s real enemies are the impenitent and chauvinistic cabals, fact remains that the masses have consistently been at the receiving end of successive governments’ bad policies and programmes.
Nigeria’s real enemies are the uncaring and insensitive political establishment who brazenly misinterpret socioeconomic brass tacks. They comprise the conflict merchants who recklessly expand our national frontlines of political and economic inclinations; those who will never agree to changes that can help stop the masses from being perpetually at their doorsteps; and those who won’t allow the sacrifices of our military and paramilitary officers at ending terrorism, banditry and other criminalities to yield any dividend. They’re in the forces. They are also in the bureaucracy. Complacency is their watchword, inconsistency is their middle name. And it’s as if the masses’ complexion was wrong at birth. So, it’s time the Tinubu presidency realized that ‘peace begins with a smile’. It’s time it appealed to the conscience of the masses because, truth be said, they are the offended-yet-the-forgotten lot.
Going through Tinubu’s agenda, one could see how laudable they sounded. But would they ever work under Nigeria’s present situation? With her ‘do-or-die’ condition, one doubts if her real enemies are taking a ‘yes’ for an answer. Anyway, Nigerians won’t be surprised if they have also penetrated the freshly-delivered Tinubu administration. If they have, will it be possible to get them exposed and out of the way? Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, even Muhammadu Buhari knew them! Till Buhari left office, he never dared to reveal the sponsors of Boko Haram as he once promised. Jonathan only confessed that Boko Haram members were in his government; but he never named or exposed them till he left office. A section of Nigerians were also of the belief that Yemi Osinbajo almost paid with his life in 2019, for daring to ‘touch the untouchables’ during his short period as Acting President. Is it any wonder that he never said or did anything so spectacular until the Buhari presidency expired?
When the president announced a review of the N8,000.00 conditional cash transfer to ‘the poorest of the poor’, Nigerians had thought that it was going to be rechanneled to other areas like refineries refurbishment, agriculture, job creation and production activities. Little did they know that it would only be moved from the National Social Register to the states! Apart from what looks like taking the programme from pickpockets and giving it to known highway armed robbers, it is bound to compound and complicate the country’s inflation rates, given the fact that the shared money will at the end of the day patronize the same market, at the same time, without adding to the corresponding volume of goods and services in the same market, at same time. The bureaucracy is also there, with its business-as-usual disposition; and society continues to behave as if nothing is happening!
As the president has decided to take the bull by the horn, he must be wary of the manipulator-leaders in his government. Though not up to 5% of Nigeria’s population, they possess the power to decide what happens to the remaining 95% of the population. The Sanballats and Tobiahs who would always benefit from the fall of the walls and the temple of Jerusalem are within; and they are always lurking around the corridors of power. Behind their gestures, they always have hidden agenda. Sanballat advised Nehemiah to run away from the war but Nehemiah refused. Instead, ‘this feeble Jew’ got approval from God to do the political and physical reconstruction of the walls. He led by example and the people supported him because of his sacrificial capabilities.
The story of Nehemiah is about the rebuilding of ancient Jerusalem’s walls. It is about the powerful story of triumphs “over great odds, the people’s renewal of faith”, their “overcoming of national shame and the reforming of their conduct.” It’s one unforgettable story of showing forth, not showing off; of breaking forth, not breaking down. Above all, it’s a fine study of leadership and giving up luxury in the palace for “hard labour in a politically insignificant district”. Nigeria’s case is not any different. For now, things are not getting better and Nigerians are hungry. They are also angry and, in some way, bitter! Nigeria is in the midst of trials of various kinds. The cry for development, security and employment opportunities is becoming loud and overwhelming. Poor accountability and lingering inability to manage the most critical components of the economy can only be likened to speaking from the gallery without having the practical experience of the situation on ground. Attempts at blocking oil theft and foreigners’ exploitation of Nigerians and their commonwealth could only be compared to Nehemiah’s fierce battles against the internal forces that fought him from all angles, and with all weapons.
Our religious bodies are not helping matters either. Beyond throwing punches in the air, what are their prescriptions for the problems confronting dear fatherland? Is God not talking to them again? Why are they so eager to share money? The situation has gone so bad that, if a politician decides to build his house on a river, our spiritual leaders will build a canoe to the place. If they can’t build it, they will go as far as contracting experts from Ilaje in Ondo State to help construct a road to get there. Of course, there are millions of Nigerians who will follow the political establishment into the lagoon. Unfortunately, when Nigeria was to be born as a country, nobody remembered or sought the involvement of God. We brought Him in later, as an aftermath! The colonialism that handed our freedom over to us was never based on godly considerations. So, putting God at the centre of our dealings was hypocritical. Ahmadu Bello had his own agenda. Ditto for Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe. So, nobody made any attempt to reconcile Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities through God. Who even knows if that’s the source of our predicament? After all, ‘if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’
Like Nehemiah, Tinubu must possess the inner eyes and the magic wand to decipher the hidden agenda of Nigeria’s real enemies in the corridors of power because their antics are beyond what ordinary eyes can see or glean. Nehemiah had opposition from legitimate enemies as well as the people he was leading. Occasionally, the people were also discouraged and almost hopeless. However, his story shows that God blesses the work of those who work diligently and devotedly. He did ordinary tasks that brought great pleasure to God. Likewise, Tinubu can help bring Nigeria up out of the mess in which she is presently immersed. But then, how will he overcome the ancient pitfalls of putting Sanballats and Tobiahs in charge of his laudable visions to rebuild Nigeria’s dilapidated walls? How will the president secure the buy-in of men and women in the mould of the late Dora Akunyili: men and women with the hearts of sacrifice and fearlessness; men and women ‘who have honour’; men and women ‘who will not lie’?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)